Illegal Loggers Shoot Amazon Forest Defender Dead; Wound Another

4 Nov 2019 7:27 AM GMT
Illegal Loggers Shoot Amazon Forest Defender Dead; Wound Another
Image Credit: Mongabay

Illegal loggers in Brazil’s Amazon forest ambushed and killed an indigenous forest defender and wounded another.

Leaders of the Guajajara tribe said that the miscreants shot Paulo Paulino Guajajara in the face while on a hunting trip. Guajajara was the leader of an indigenous group seeking to protect the Arariboia indigenous reserve from incursions in Maranhao state. Guajajara was in his twenties and leaves behind one son.

Justice and public security minister Sergio Moro said that Paulino Guajajara’s killing will be investigated by the Federal police in order to “bring those responsible for this crime to justice”.

According to the indigenous leader in the area, previous threats prompted the forest guards to wear protective vests while on patrol.

“We informed federal agencies of the threats but they didn’t take any action,” Al Jazeera quoted Sonia Guajajara, leader of Brazil’s pan-indigenous organisation APIB, as saying.

According to FUNAI, a state agency that represents indigenous interests, a logger also died in the attack on Friday night, October 1, in the northeastern state.


Invasions Of Reservations

This incident comes amid increasing invasions of reservations by illegal loggers and miners. Ever since far-right President Jair Bolsonaro took office this year, he promised to open up protected indigenous lands to economic development.

“The Bolsonaro government has indigenous blood on its hands,” APIB, which represents many of the country’s 900,000 native people, said in a statement on Saturday.

“The increase in violence in indigenous territories is a direct result of his hateful speeches and steps taken against our people,” APIB said.

According to Sonia Guajajara, the government was leaving tribes to defend themselves from the invasion of their lands. Further, it was dismantling environmental and indigenous agencies.


“We Are Protecting Our Land”

In order to patrol the vast reservation, the Guajajaras set up the Guardians of the Forest in 2012. With some 20,000 people, they are one of Brazil’s largest indigenous groups.

The area is vast, and therefore a small, endangered tribe, the Awa Guaja, lives in the forest and has no contact with the outside world.

Paulino Guajajara, in an interview with Reuters in September, had said that protecting the forest from these intruders was a dangerous task. His people, however, could not give in to fear, he had said.

“I’m scared at times, but we have to lift up our heads and act. We are here fighting,” he said.

“We are protecting our land and the life on it, the animals, the birds, even the Awa who are here too,” added Paulino Guajajara.


Also Read: Destruction Of Forests And Wetlands Have Turned Karnataka’s Green Districts Into Drought-Hit Areas

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